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that station maintain an unremitting, religious care over their tender offspring; that if any of them should depart from the way of Truth, those who are set as guardians over them, may be clear of guilt or neglect on their account.
Although, in my tender, youthful state, I had witnessed many favours from my gracious Redeemer; yet, between the eleventh and fourteenth years of my age, thro' unwatchfulness and disobedience, temptations to join with unsuitable company, and a libertine spirit, prevailed over me; so that when out of my parents' sight, I was not clear of using the corrupt language of you to a single person; I could jest and talk lightly; yea, I went so far sometimes as even to speak falsely, and to swear; until practices of these kinds became familiar to me.
O my God! sometimes when I reflect on these things, and thy mercy is remembered, it seems astonishing to me that thou didst not cut me off in my rebellion. But at seasons, when my sinful condition was brought into view, my spirit groaned within me. May my woful career in the way of known disobedience in the days of my youth, and the piercing sorrow which followed on that account, be a warning to young people and others who may read these lines, to flee from evil and learn to do well. For Oh! how the first nature, the strong and stubborn will of the creature, doth grow (if given way to) in the hearts of the disobedient, and those who do not early take heed to the tender admonitions of Divine grace, inwardly afforded them!
1745. In the fourteenth year of my age, my father put me as an apprentice to a bricklayer. It was no small trial to me to leave my father's house; but
I endeavoured to put on a cheerful countenance. As I went along, I was met by an aged man that inquired who I was, and whither I was going? On being informed, he gave me this advice: "Be sure be kind to your mistress, and keep in favour with the women." I attended to his counsel, and it was an advantage to me; as I do not remember ever refusing to go at the command of my mistress, by night or by day; which gained me favour in the family. I have often felt for apprentice boys whose trade exposes them to ramble through the country, and occasions them, at times, to be with vicious company.
When my situation was thus changed, my inclination for undue liberties increased; and as I was faithful in my master's business, he did not restrain me. I then lay open to a wide world. As to dress and language, I departed from the way of my education; had my coat altered, and cross pockets put in; and my tongue was ready to suit almost any company. My situation became lamentable indeed; and truly sad would have been my condition, hadst not thou, O Lord, been merciful, and, instead of cutting the thread of my life in my transgression, followed me with thy righteous judgments for slighting and departing from the way of my education. On this account, I received many piercing lashes of conscience; under which I often walked alone in the woods, where I bemoaned my state, and poured out my cries and supplications to my offended, but gracious God. In this condition, I greatly abhorred my degeneracy, so that my life was almost a burden to me.
But, although I sometimes hated sin and folly, yet being captivated with light company, and having a large acquaintance of airy young people, it seemed
as though I could not be alone, unless I betook myself to the woods. In those days I often went there, and believe the Lord beheld me with compassion, as a poor pilgrim, sometimes willing to retreat from evil, yet unable for want of more stability and resolution. Oh! how captivating is folly; even amongst those whom the world calls clever folks! Thus for a time my sins seemed to increase, and my life was without comfort. But the kindness of my heavenly Father was great, and his judgments were mixed with mercy. He spared my life, and from time to time spread the canopy of his love over me. He plucked me, at length, as a brand out of the burning, that he might refine and prepare me to sound an alarm for the cause of his Truth on the earth.
Oh! that young people who come after me, may be warned, and learn early to keep the fear of the Lord steadily before their eyes, for it is this which preserveth from all the snares of death.
1751. As my master inclined to quit his trade, I was induced to agree with him for the remainder of my time; and, fearing to go in debt, I still worked for my master, in order that he might be paid.— Whilst thus engaged to perform my contract, my clothes became much worn, and I thought scarce any one's condition was like mine. My mother was now aged and failing; so that, to promote her ease, rather than go there, I chose to make my home at my brother Jacob's. I had many sorrowful hours which were not known to any but the Lord alone; for I kept my condition much to myself.
In the 12th month, 1752, I was taken sick with the pleurisy in Philadelphia. Having as yet work
ed but little for myself, I was scant of money; and being too ill to be removed home, I was taken to the house of John Collins, my life not being expected to continue. There I lay six weeks; and afterward was carried to my father's house. Not soon recovering my health, my outward circumstances were no small trial to me: yet this was not to be compared to my inward exercises, thinking what would become of my soul, if I should now be called to leave the world. My prayers, night and day, were for mercy. At length I thought I was willing to die, and made a covenant to amend my ways, if my life should be continued.
But as my health increased, I was again tempted and gave way, so as to return to my former wrong liberties; yea, I was afraid I even grew worse than before. It was shocking to think of! I was as one strolling hither and thither; full and empty, joyful and sorrowful, as things went well or ill with me. I seemed as one who had no inheritance, either on earth or in heaven. The weight of my sins increased, so that my life again seemed a burden to me. Having forsaken the fountain of living waters, I found no rest for my soul. In the evening, I wished for morning; and when the morning came, I had the same desire for evening. Oh! let all those take warning, who may fall under temptations to break their solemn covenants made with the Almighty in times of distress.
I had squandered away much precious time in a manner that yielded no profit, either to soul or body; a part of which was in going from one young woman to another, in a thoughtless way, endeavouring to gain their affections, without considering the conse
quence. But the Lord, who followed me in mercy, was nearer to me than I was aware of; and did not deal with me according to my deserts.
About this time, I had gained the affections of a virtuous young woman, to whom I was nearly attached, before I was aware of it. This alarmed me; having no expectation to marry so soon. I believe it was a mercy from God, to stop my career: for a procedure in marriage became a very serious thing to me. I therefore had to tell her, that I thought she might be running too great a risk; for, in my unsettled condition, I feared that marriage was an undertaking of a nature too weighty for my present state. Her answer on this occasion was so discreet, that a solemn weight came over us, and the matter became more serious to us both. I was greatly tried. She had my affections, and I thought it was below the dignity of a man to leave her thus. However unstable, and vain as my conduct had been, I thought it was right to consult my father; and taking a suitable opportunity, I laid the matter before him. After a solid pause, he gave his consent; and her parents also approved of my addresses to her. Her name was Priscilla, the daughter of John and Elizabeth Collins.
A fear that I should not have strength or resolution enough to break off from my associates in vanity, was now a great concern to my mind. To continue in this way after marriage, which I had reason to think too many young people did, I held in abhorrence. But the Lord in mercy restrained me, and made me willing to quit my libertine company. Thus, becoming more settled in stability of mind, about the twenty-second year of my age, in 1753,